THOHOYANDOU, April 30 – Mamelodi Sundowns moved level on points at the top off the Premiership table with Orlando Pirates following their 2-1 win over relegation-threatened Black Leopards at a packed Thohoyandou Stadium on Tuesday night.
The title race is now set to go down to the wire, with Sundowns still to play Golden Arrows and Free State Stars, while Pirates, who have a better goal difference of four, finish their league campaign with fixtures against Cape Town City and Polokwane City.
In a game in which Sundowns managed well, goals from Gaston Sirino and Tebogo Langerman in each half put the visitors 2-0 ahead before Tumelo Khutlang pulled one back deep in added time.
The result condemns the Limpopo side to a fifth defeat in six matches and they are just two points above the drop zone, with two matches to play.
The initial stages of the encounter made for absorbing watching as both teams looked to probe for openings while remaining cautious not to commit too many bodies forward in order not to be caught on the counter.
It was only in the 19th minute when one of the goalkeepers was worked, with Sundowns’ Denis Onyango doing well to get down and push a 20-yard effort from Tshwarelo Bereng around the post.
The defending league champions also had a couple of sniffs at goal, with both Hlompho Kekana and Langerman close to getting on the end of a couple of crosses around the six-yard box.
There had not however been much difference between the two sides when in the 27th minute, Lidoda Duvha captain Jean Munganga didn’t get enough on an attempted header back to his keeper, which enabled Sirino to cleverly sneak in and toe-poke the ball past the onrushing King Ndlovu and into the net.
Seemingly relaxed by going in front, the Brazilians dished up some neat moves which resulted in further chances, but Sirino and Thapelo Morena were well wide with their efforts.
Leopards did manage to come back into the game in the five minutes leading up to the interval and it took very good diving save from Onyango to keep out a header from Robert Ng’ambi.
With Sundowns happy to get numbers back in their own half of the field, Leopards enjoyed some good passages of play after the restart. But they lacked a cutting edge in attack and could have conceded a second goal in the 56th minute when Sibusiso Vilakazi stole in at the back post and nearly squeezed the ball from a tight angle.
The hosts though were always susceptible to the counter-attack and that’s exactly what transpired in the 68th minute when Sirino combined with Kekana, who played in Morena down the right flank, from where his pin-point cross delightfully picked out Langerman at the far post for an emphatic volley into the net.
Sundowns were fortunate not to have conceded 13 minutes from time when Karabo Tshepe’s scuffed effort was cleared off the line by Mosa Lebusa.
To their credit, Lidoda Duvha did not throw in the towel, and when Onyango spilt a routine cross from Tshepe in 93rd minute, Khutlang was on hand to bundle the ball over the line.
That made for some anxious late moments for Masandawana, but they were able to ensure their goal remained well guarded for the final 90 seconds. (ANA)